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Georgia’s Haley De Jong smiles before she mounts the beam to score a 9.850 for her routine. The University of Georgia beat Auburn 197.425-196.350 on Feb. 2, 2020, in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/ Kathryn Skeean, kskeean@randb.com)

From the moment the GymDogs’ beam lineup huddles for a pep talk before their event to Sabrina Vega’s moonwalking anchor routine, the GymDogs have one phrase in mind.

“Calm confidence,” freshman Haley De Jong said. “That’s our goal on beam — being able to go out there and have no distractions.”

Georgia gymnastics’ cool and collected attitude has earned them a No. 6 overall ranking in the event in the NCAA. In the first six meets of the GymDogs’ 2020 campaign, they’ve averaged a 49.279 on beam, earning their season-high score of 49.425 against Auburn on Feb. 7.

The approach that head coach Courtney Kupets Carter wants her team to bring is a combination of calm and aggressive. The coaching staff will make specific changes to each gymnast’s routine — sometimes week by week — to ensure a mix of boldness and focused skill that will earn the most points in the event.

“I love the beam lineup. They've really shown that they can perform,” Kupets Carter said. “We've had a few competitions where it's our last event and it was a harder meet. They come and they do what they have to do, so that's just built them up with confidence. It's been really fun to work with.”

Within the four events competed in gymnastics, beam is known for requiring a certain composure and focus in order to be successful. Most gymnasts will keep relaxed facial expressions and use slow tempo songs in their routines, such as Rachael Lukacs’ choice of Eagles’ “Hotel California” or Baumann’s “Girl Like You” by Jason Aldean.

But the event is also open to each gymnast’s unique style, shown in the Gymdogs by De Jong’s more upbeat routine set to Kanye West’s “Stronger.” The freshman understands that her routine is outwardly bubbly and fun, but her focus on hitting her skills is sharp.

“I need to keep it calm in my brain but show off that I have the confidence because that's kind of always worked for me,” she said. “I think having such a fun song before I go kind of relaxes me and just gets me more in the zone.”

Confidence in Georgia’s beam lineup is built through a method every athlete can understand –– practice makes perfect. In the gym, athletes will run through their routine time and time again. It leads up to mock competition rotations, where the beam lineup will salute and perform for the coaches and fellow teammates to replicate the pressure felt in a real meet.

“I think it's definitely the numbers we've put in behind the gym and doing different scenarios,” Rachel Baumann said. “I think it's definitely helped in our mental state. … When everyone’s watching you, that's a lot of pressure, so we practice it in the gym just to help.”

The idea of calm confidence is reiterated every time the beam rotation gathers in a circle before the event. The GymDogs have one huddle with their entire team and coaches to focus as they move through events, but the huddle spent with their specific beam lineup is all about empowerment.

“[It’s something] very short and sweet, something positive, something to pump up the girls,” Vega said. “Then once we break off, we’re all in the zone.”

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